Famous people with high IQ

Da Vinci is one of the most extraordinary famous people with a high IQ
Leonardo da Vinci had an IQ in excess of 160

The list of famous people with high IQ scores is a long one. Before listing some key individuals, let’s first revisit what is means to have a high IQ. In any nation, the average IQ is set to 100 and a normal distribution is able to be set around this mean. Around 95% of the population will have an IQ score between 70 and 130, which implies that roughly 2.5% of the population will score <70 while 2.5% of the population will score above 130. IQ scales are classified as follows:

IQ range (16 SD)


Population distribution


Very Superior






High Average






Low Average



Well below average


69 and below

Lower Extreme



As can be seen from the above table, IQs between 110-119 are still considered to be high average. So one can take the view that an IQ in excess of 120 is a high IQ. An IQ of 120 places you in the top 10.5% of the population (or 1 in 9 people). 5% of the population have an IQ in excess of 125 (1 in 20 people), while only 3% of the population have an IQ in excess of 130 (1 in 33). 1% of the population score in excess of 135, while 1 in 192 people (0.43% of the population) score in excess of 140. Incidentally, an IQ of 140 of more is considered genius or near genius level.

There are plenty of celebrities and famous people with high IQs in excess of 140.

  • Leonardo da Vinci: was estimated to have an IQ of 180, which decreases to 158 adjusting for the Flynn effect. This represents a rarity of 1 in 6,900. In terms of famous people with high IQs, he is perhaps one of the greatest visionaries and most multi-talented. Not only was he a fantastic artist, he also contributed to the world of science with designs of the human body, flying machines, scuba gear and the parachute, and all of this in the mid the late 1470s
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: was estimated to have an IQ of 165, although adjusting for the Flynn effect, his IQ would most likely be 143 in modern terms. Irrespective of the adjustment, an IQ at this level is seen in less than 1 in 278 people. No wonder why Mozart was writing symphonies from the age of 8 and that his music is still being played in households around the world nearly 225 years after his death. It remains to be seen whether even the Beatles are able to achieve such a feat.
  • Albert Einstein: is reported to have an IQ of 160 (1 in 11,000 people). With his theory of relativity E=MC squared, he has changed the world of astrophysics.
  • Bill Gates: has an IQ of 160. It comes as no surprise that he was able to develop a program that would become ubiquitous in the world of computing and modern communication. Bill Gates deserves not only to be included in the list of famous people with high IQs, but also great inventors

There are plenty more famous people with a high IQ. We will revisit this topic in future posts.

To test your own IQ, click here.

The Flynn Effect IQ gains

Flynn effect IQ gains: higher levels of education could be the cause
Flynn effect IQ gain could be explained in part by greater levels of formal education

In 1984, James R. Flynn made the discovery that that IQs of the American population were increasing at a rate of 3 points per decade. This finding was coined “the Flynn Effect” in the controversial book The Bell Curve. This astonishing finding implied that Americans were increasing their intelligence (i.e. the Flynn effect IQ gain) by nearly 9 points per generation, which is over half of one standard deviation for IQ scores. Zhou and Zao confirmed that the rate of 3pt gain in the USA has continued into the 21st Century. Most scientists agree that this is because of societal factors. In the modern world, the increase in the amount of information that one must absorb and the range of experience that people are likely to go through in life are bound to have some profound impact on the brain and on cognitive ability.

Consider the amount of formal education that people tend to go through today vis-à-vis a Century ago (for instance, nearly 60% of Canadians today undertake undergraduate studies). Also consider the amount of information that you come across on the news, the web and through social media. Although Einstein was said to have an IQ of 160, he never was exposed to nearly as much information as the web-savvy, astute reader of the Financial Times, the Economist and the New Yorker would be today. And because crystallized intelligence is one of the major components of general intelligence, it comes as no surprise that people are in fact increasing their smarts. The Flynn effect IQ gain also persists into adulthood, so that means that people are in fact becoming smarter.

If you thought the USA was a special place, then think again. The Flynn Effect was confirmed globally and it turns out that some countries have been experiencing even faster gain than those recorded in the USA.

The Highest Flynn effect IQ gain nations are as follows:

Netherlands: 6.7

Belgium: 5.8

Canada: 4.6

Norway: 3.2

New Zealand: 2.4

Digging deeper into the data however, the IQ gains are not evenly spread across the distribution of IQs. The largest gains in intelligence are found in the lower half of the IQ distribution and the figures quoted above are most applicable to individuals with IQs centered on the mean of 100 (i.e. the average Joe). At the extreme right of the distribution on the other hand, gains are flat to declining which suggests that people with gifted IQs are not getting the same benefit as people who are intellectually average. The Flynn effect gain is largely benefiting Joe Bloggs. All in all, it might be more accurate to state that the average person is getting smarter.

Because of the Flynn effect IQ gain however, it is critical for people to be taking updated IQ tests that have been normed recently to avoid reporting an inflated score.  In other words, people sitting a 30-year old IQ test dating from the early 1980s would be expected to outperform on that test today relative to taking a brand new IQ test that has been normed recently. Remember that IQ tests are always normed at a particular point in time to reflect a mean of 100.

You can assess your fluid intelligence HERE on our recently normed online IQ test.